the GiGLer

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Knowles Knows: What is a Data Use Licence?

Emma Knowles, GiGL Partnership Officer

Emma is GiGL’s Partnership Officer. Drawing from her experience working with GiGL partners, research students and the community over the years, Emma will be answering frequently asked questions and explaining commonly misunderstood terms in this new article series. Please leave a comment below if you would like Emma to answer a question or explain a topic in the next instalment.

What is a Data Use Licence?

A Data Use Licence sets out the terms and conditions that apply to use of specified data and provides evidence that data recipients agree to these terms.

Individuals and organisations who generate and process data often have rights to control whether the data are shared and what they can be used for. Having access to data does not necessarily mean you can use them for any given purpose: you will need to respect the terms of the relevant licence; and when the data can be used, the source should usually be acknowledged.

These permissions and restrictions can be covered by legal mechanisms including copyright and database rights. They provide a framework for recognising the value of work that goes into collecting, organising, and displaying data, and for tracing data sources. It is important to respect these rules and conventions in order to maintain responsible and sustainable data flow. Personal data and records of sensitive species have additional conditions for sharing and use, to protect the people and wildlife they represent.

An example of a GiGL Data Use Licence (as of December 2019)

The GiGL Data Use Licence is a legal agreement between GiGL and the data recipient, agreeing: not to publish the data (including on websites); not to share the data with third parties; and not to keep the data beyond the specified time period. If you subsequently need to do any of these things, you can ask us for specific permission, and we will grant permission if appropriate or advise on alternative options. For our commercial Data Search Reports, the licence is a web-based form of the same terms and conditions which clients agree to when requesting a report online from eCountability.

Other GiGL resources that do not require a specific licence may also be copyright to GiGL, such as the maps and data visualisations on our website. To use GiGL data that is based on Ordnance Survey mapping, you will also need the appropriate Ordnance Survey licence.

Why do GiGL need Data Use Licences?

Sharing data under licence ensures that the recipients are aware of the terms and conditions of data use. It also enables data sharing to be traced, so that we can ensure GiGL data is being used correctly and that our data users have access to any supporting information and advice they may need.

GiGL curates and shares data that belong to other people and organisations, and the licence enables us to ensure that their terms are met. GiGL species records are provided by a vast network of individuals and organisations, combined into a single data set. Some recorders are keen to ensure that their data is only used for certain purposes, e.g. non-commercially; or simply wish to be able to trace data use.

Mapped boundaries for sites and habitats are often based on Ordnance Survey maps, so we need to comply with OS’s own data use licence. For local designated sites (SINCs), the data belongs to the Local Authorities that designate them (as well as often being OS-based), and some Local Authorities prefer to know who holds this information because it can have legal relevance. We need to respect these restrictions in order to be responsible data managers and to maintain our data sharing agreements with data providers, and that means passing on the conditions to anyone who we share the data with.

Where the name of an individual is given as the species recorder, the record also counts as personal data and is covered by data protection legislation, and locations of sensitive species should only be shared for specific purposes and with known recipients for legal reasons. This means that these records usually require a licence.

Some of the reasons why GiGL need Data Use Licences

Managing the database and keeping it up to date takes a lot of time, knowledge and effort, so we need to be able to charge for our time where relevant. If data curated by GiGL (or the resources that we produce based on them) are made publicly available without due process; if they are re-sold or horded by other organisations without permission; or if GiGL’s input is not acknowledged where relevant, we may lose revenue and be unable to continue our work maintaining the quality of the database.

Our database is continually growing and improving, and there are metadata, concepts, and caveats that go with the data to enable them to be interpreted correctly. Keeping track of data sharing and sharing data directly with end users means we can provide support to everyone who is using GiGL data and ensure that they have all the correct and up-to-date information they need to interpret the data wisely and use them effectively.

What GiGL resources do I need a licence for?

GIS files containing GiGL data; tables (e.g. spreadsheets) of attributes and map images (e.g. PDF) containing site boundaries will always need to be covered by a Data Use Licence. This includes Data Search Reports. For other types of data visualisations and summary statistics, you usually just need to cite GiGL as a source but do check with us for confirmation. You can publish or share summary statistics, conclusions, and analysis based on the data but not the data itself (as maps and attributes in any format) without prior permission from GiGL.

Information resources produced by GiGL based on the data, such as PDF maps, statistics, and data visualisations, belong to GiGL under intellectual copyright legislation, and may also contain OS data. Even if these have been published, such as our website content and GiGL maps in borough local plans, you should check with us before re-using them for your own projects.

How do I make sure that I have the correct licencing for using GiGL data?

The first step is to contact GiGL. If you need to use licenced data, we will give you a copy of the licence form to complete and advice on how to fill it in. There are also instructions on the form. Contacting us at this stage also means that we can advise on use of GiGL data for your project, and what other relevant services we could provide.

There are four main types of the GiGL Data Use Licence:

  • One-off Data Use Licences give permission to use GiGL data for a single specified project (e.g. a student research paper) for an agreed period of time.
  • Partner Service Level Agreement (SLA) Data Use Licences allow GiGL SLA partners to use GiGL data within their organisation for any internal projects for the duration of their SLA with GiGL (usually a one or three year term).
  • Partner contractor Data Use Licences enable contractors to GiGL SLA partners to use GiGL data for a specified project on behalf of the GiGL partner (e.g. an ecologist carrying out habitat surveys for a London borough). The agreement is between GiGL and the contractor but is usually covered by the partner’s SLA at no extra cost.
  • The Terms and Conditions for our Data Search Reports, which commercial clients agree to when requesting a report online from eCountability, are equivalent to a Data Use Licence. Community groups and individuals requesting Data Search Reports directly from GiGL will also be asked to agree to these terms.

The data recipient can be an individual or an organisation. If it is an organisation, then the representative who signs the licence is responsible for ensuring that any other members who have access to the GiGL data are also aware of the licence terms.

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